The last note sang by the choir floated away under the mid-afternoon sun. People came forward one at a time to throw their handful of dirt over the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. It took a bit of time for everyone assembled to say their goodbyes, but before the afternoon’s blue sky deepened into purple, the last mourner left the graveyard.
She of course still lingered, because she was curious about how these sorts of things went.
At first she had no notion that she was separate. One moment she had been inside, and the next moment she was looking at a heavily lined face, all of the wrinkles looking like runes on weathered parchment. She stayed through the whole process of preparing for burial, fascinated by the small changes she could see were still happening, despite the attempts to have something presentable for viewing. Now at the graveyard, she was able to observe the changes hurrying along now that no one cared how the body looked.
She saw the body which looked frail to begin with, waste away further. Leg muscles that had loved to dance shriveled to nothing as the skin around started to drape like a forlorn spider’s web. The small pooch of her belly collapsed in on itself and a miasma filled the coffin. She was most amused by the changes in her face as the skin pulled tight, tugging the wrinkles into disarray, but her smile stayed much the same.
Even though many dawns had come and gone since they had lain her body in the earth, to her it seemed like all of this happened in one night. And when dawn broke, she and her body were no longer inside a coffin but in a field. At this point, she was kneeling over a skeleton, only thin wisps of hair and tattered dress clothes left beside the bones of her body.
“Oh, you brave beautiful girl,” she murmured to it. “You tried so hard. And you did so well.” She leaned over and gave the bones a kiss on the forehead and was shocked to realize she was still able to speak and feel.
“It’s alright now,” she heard a voice say. She felt dizzy. There was something familiar about the voice, about how when his hair grew too long it’d fall in his eyes, but she ignored it, still staring at her corpse.
“I can’t forget her. What will happen if I do? She was a wife, a mother. I lived a life and all that went into it, every laugh, every tear, made me who I am. I can’t forget!” she said.
There was a feeling of warmth to one side. She realized she had an arm and something had touched it. A voice came again, “You were a beautiful brave girl and you still are. Don’t be scared. Look. Look at her.”
She looked. An unkempt shrub grew near the skull, with some of its evergreen branches supporting it like a pillow. She reached out towards it, plucking a bit off. Its scent enveloped her.
“Rosemary,” she said, stroking its needle like leaves. “I know you. I know your smell.” She breathed in deeply and remembered.
She remembered everything.
Song Choice: In My Life covered by Lindsey Saunders
This blog post is part of the fabulous Magaly Guerrero's Witches In Fiction 2015: Death Rites and Remembrances blog party. Fly over to the main party page and check out some of the other great posts.